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Integrating Science and the Humanities: Toward a Second Wave1

Edward Slingerland The relationship between the sciences and the humanities has long been a fraught onea tension famously captured by C.P. Snow in the phrase The Two Cultures (Snow 1959/1993). The belief that humanists study textsin the broad sense that this term has acquired in recent decadeswhile scientists study things is still commonplace in modern universities. The two groups typically perform their work in different parts of the campus, are served by separate funding agencies, and are governed in their work by radically different methodologies and theoretical assumptions. Attempts to bridge the two cultures have often taken the form of hostile takeovers: humanists trying to forcibly bring the work of scientists under the umbrella of arbitrary, interpretable inscriptions2 or scientists arguing for the explanatory irrelevance of human phenomena not amenable to quantification.3 Recent decades have, however, seen the rise of voices arguing for an alternative approachconsilience (Wilson 1998) or vertical integration (Tooby and Cosmides 1992, Slingerland 2008)which argues that humanistic and scientific work should be brought together into a shared explanatory framework. This seems at first glance like a fairly uncontroversial idea, and indeed the adjective interdisciplinary is often bandied about as a term of approval in both the sciences and the humanities. However, the call for consilience, which requires extending interdisciplinarity across the sciences/humanities divide, has for the most part been met with by indifference or outright hostility by the majority of humanists. For instance, the work of the person responsible for popularizing the term consilience in recent years, E.O. Wilson, has since the 1970s inspired a backlash among humanists of such intensity

This article is derived from Creating Consilience: Toward a Second Wave, by Edward Slingerland and Mark Collard, the Introduction to an edited volume entitled Creating Consilience: Integrating Science and the Humanities, forthcoming from Oxford University Press. 2 See, e.g., such classic examples of strong programme science studies as Latour and Woolgar 1979/1986, or more recent calls for the humanities to subsume nature science into its magisterium of interpretation (Menand 2005). 3 For a recent characterization and critique of such scientism in the field of religious studies, see Cho and Squier 2008.

and duration that it begs explanation.4 Such hostility continues to be the default reaction of humanists to calls for approaches to human behavior informed by scientific theories, as evidenced by the spate of recent pieces in the popular press proclaimingusually with undisguised gleethe death of evolutionary psychology or the consilience project in general.5 Why does the concept of consilience inspire such vociferous resistance among humanists? Are there ways in which the call for consilience could be modified or amended to make it more acceptable to humanists, or must the consilience project simply be abandoned? If consilience can be maintained as an ideal, what would a properly consilient approach to particular humanistic disciplines look like? These are questions that need to be answered if the project of consilience is to advance. Points of tension There are a variety of reasons why humanists might be resistant to the concept of consilience or vertical integration, including quite mundane concerns about academic power, resource allocation and reflexive disciplinary turf-guarding. In this article I would like to focus on more principled concerns, which I find generally fall under two main rubrics: mind-body dualism and reductionism. After characterizing these concerns, I will then go on to suggest some possibilities for how they might be defused. In a final section I explore the productive power of these tensions, sketching out the manner in which responses to them have contributed to a modified, second wave of consilienceone likely to be much more appealing to humanities scholars than earlier versions, and therefore more likely to remove the remaining barriers to genuinely interdisciplinary collaboration. Mind-body dualism One of the most fundamental of the concerns aroused by consilience is the question of how we conceive of human beings. Perhaps the most common way of characterizing the difference between the two cultures of the sciences and the humanitiesat least from the humanities side of the fenceis to invoke the idea of different modes of knowledge. The humanities are typically characterized as involving a unique mode of apprehension,
4 5

See Segerstrle 2000 for a helpful account of the reception of consilience in the academy. See, for instance, Begley 2009 or Brooks 2009.

consciousness studying consciousness or understanding (Verstehen), while the sciences engage in mechanistic explanation (Erklren). The latter, on this account, is adequate to deal with the movements of dumb, inert physical objects, but the former is the only way to grasp genuinely human meaning. Although it is rarely explicitly acknowledged today, there is reason to think that the primary rationale behind the distinction between these two modes of knowingand therefore behind the sciences/humanities divide itselfis an intuition that there are two utterly different types of substances in the world that operate according to distinct principles: mind and matter (Corbey 2005, Slingerland 2008). The humanities study the products of the free and unconstrained spirit or mindliterature, religion, art, etcwhile the sciences concern themselves with deterministic laws governing the inert kingdom of unthinking objects. Many of the other factors involved in the resistance to consilience can be seen as ultimately founded upon mind-body dualism: cries of reductionism, for instance, are typically inspired by violations of the mind-body distinction, and the concept of human beings being uniquely endowed with mind and its accompanying powers (thought, free will) motivates the idea that there is a fundamental distinction between the human and the non-human, or between the determinism of genes and the free play of culture. Viewing the sciences/humanities divide from this perspective, the call for consilience can be seen as a plea to move beyond mind-body dualism: to see the realm of the human as coextensive with the realm of nature. This plea, in turn, is motivated by the contention that mind-body dualismthe idea that human bodies are uniquely inhabited by an autonomous Ghost in the Machineis no longer defensible. The mind is the body, the body is the mind, and this mind-body unit is ultimately a physical system produced by evolution, and therefore amenable to being studied as a naturalistic system. Daniel Dennett, for instance, sees this collapsing of previously distinct ontological realms as the most profound contribution of Darwinism to modern intellectual life, and a clear warrant for bringing human phenomena under the broad umbrella of the sciences: In a single stroke, Darwins theory of evolution by natural selection united the realm of physics and mechanism on the one hand with the realm of meaning and purpose on the other. From a Darwinian perspective the continuity between lifeless matter on the one hand and living things and all their activities and

products on the other can be glimpsed in outline and explored in detail, not just the strivings of animals and the efficient designs of plants, but human meanings and purposes: art and science itself, and even morality. When we can see all of our artifacts as fruits on the tree of life, we have achieved a unification of perspective that permits us to gauge both the similarities and differences between a spider web and the World Wide Web, a beaver dam and the Hoover Dam, a nightingales nest and Ode to a Nightingale. (Dennett 2009: 10061) The project of consilience is fundamentally premised upon the conviction that there is an ontological continuity between the human/mental and the non-human/material, which justifies approaching these two realms of inquiry with a unified explanatory framework. The converse of this, of course, is that if one rejects the premise of ontological continuity then consilience loses its basic rationale. And there are many humanists who reject this premisewho feel that physicalism is not a reasonable ontological stance to adopt because immaterial mind or consciousness is an irrefutable, bedrock feature of the universe, and therefore believe that the sciences/humanities divide is quite reasonable and desirable. In an important piece critiquing the project of consilience, the prominent cultural anthropologist Richard Schweder (Schweder forthcoming) delivers an impassioned defense of mind-body dualism and the irreducibility of the human. It represents a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to exploring consiliencea piece often ignored or misunderstood by consiliences proponents. Shweder correctly diagnoses consilience as requiring one to accept the spectacular and breath-taking (or should we say dis-spiriting) counter-intuitive implication of mind/body monism of the materialist variety, the implication being that mental states (including ones own truth claims about mental states) are epiphenomenal and have nothing to do with the chain of objective events that is the real cause behavior (xx). Like many prominent opponents of physicalist approaches to the human, Shweder feels that the power of the Cartesian cogito argument remains undiminished by cognitive science: the ontologically independent nature of consciousness means that there is some irreducible first-person quality to our experience that can, in principle, never be captured by or reduced to third-person accounts. Since the various disciplines of the humanities study phenomena that are products of this independent human consciousness, they too must be viewed as autonomous from the sciences.

Shweders position is crucial because it represents the dominant view of the sciences/humanities divide among humanities scholars, and therefore needs to be both understood and responded to by those who wish to promote consilience. It is also important because it is not necessarily wrong. Another prominent opponent of consilience, the philosopher Charles Taylor, has long argued that we have no good reason for concluding that human consciousness and intentionality are any less basic than the sorts of physical realities studied by the sciences (Taylor 1989), especially in light of the fact that current-day neuroscience is still a long way from providing a fully comprehensive physicalist account of what human consciousness might be and how it might arise.6 According to Taylor, none but the most dogmatic of physicalists could deny the possibility that a fully physicalist account of human consciousness might prove indefinitely elusive, or that future discoveries about the human consciousness may verify its irreducibility or ontological independence from the material. There is, therefore, a possibility that the entire consilience movement may one day be viewed as a historical aberration, a misguided intellectual trend inspired by an excessive enthusiasm for the power of the sciences to explain all aspects of the world. Although I believe that this possibility should be acknowledgedand that our attitude as we pursue consilience rendered more circumspect as a consequencethis article is premised upon the conviction that physicalism is likely to remain our most productive starting point for academic inquiry. The main reason for this conviction is that the physicalist position is consistent with what we already know about the universe, whereas mind-body dualism is not. As far as we can tell, the general structure of the universe is such that higher level phenomena emerge out of and depend upon lower level phenomenafor example, molecules form and behave in accordance with more basic principles that govern both inorganic and organic substances. Thus, we have strong reason to expect mind to be a product of lower level phenomena rather than an ontologically distinct, causally independent force.

Of course, this philosophical skepticism concerning the possibility of a physicalist explanation of consciousness has a long history, going back at least to John Lockes comment that it is as impossible to conceive that ever bare incogitative Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being, as that nothing should of itself produce Matter (Locke 1690/1975: 623).

The argument in favor of pursuing consilience is also bolstered by what we might call the ad hominem argument, with the target hominus in this argument being Homo sapiens. In previous work (Slingerland 2008), I have contended that, ironically, physicalist science can provide a very good explanation for why human beings are biased against physicalism. My arguments centers on the observation that human beings appear to possess an evolved cognitive mechanismTheory of Mind (ToM), the tendency to perceive mental qualities as distinct and causally efficacious forces in the worldthat explains why human beings are uniquely vulnerable to the anti-physicalist argument: we simply cannot help seeing both ourselves and the world we live in as pervaded by intentionality and meaning. Our possession of ToM both explains the continued appeal of mind-body dualismas well as the sciences/humanities divide that grows out of it and reduces its empirical plausibility. Descartes cogito argument is so powerful because we are designed by natural selection to find it convincing, not necessarily because it is a good argument. At the same time, I also argue that the inability of psychologically healthy human beings to ever completely free themselves from mind-body dualism means that humanlevel truths will always present themselves to us as truths, not mere psychological constructions, which means that any program of consilience based upon eliminative reductionism faces an uphill battle. This means that humanists pursuing consilience have to adopt a kind of dual consciousness, acknowledgingand of course continuing to experience on a visceral levelthe irresistible force of mind-body dualism, while simultaneously bracketing it when going about their work. The fact that ToM ability is not uniform among humans, and is likely distributed in human populations in a spectrum ranging from autism (deficient) to schizophrenia (excessive) (Crespi and Badcock 2008), may explain not only why the ability to perform this sort of bracketing varies from scholar to scholar, but even why individuals are differentially drawn to the sciences and humanities in the first place.7

See Jiro Tanaka (Tanaka under review) for an argument that such a spectrum theory may explain the variety in individuals levels of acceptance of physicalist and Darwinian models of the mind, Also refer to Simonton 2009 for data that demonstrates how scientific disciplines can be clearly ranked in a hierarchical configuration based on a variety of measures, as well as some preliminary, but intriguing, data concerning both how this hierarchy can be extended into the various branches of the humanities and how personality traits and life histories might predict the appeal of various levels of analysis to particular individuals.

Reductionism The central conviction of the consilience project is that human phenomena should not be approached as sui generis realities possessing only their own internal logic and structure, but rather as objects of inquiry that can also be productively explained by lower level phenomenajust as, say, organisms inheritance of traits has been explained in terms of DNA. However, for many humanists, consiliences commitment to reductionism is problematic, and reductive is often wielded as a general-purpose critique that requires little defenseas humanists we all know that reductionism is bad. The kneejerk reaction against reductionism fundamentally misunderstands what it involved in academic inquiry. Arguably, any truly interesting explanation of a given phenomenon is interesting precisely because it involves reduction of some sorttracing causation from higher to lower levels or uncovering hidden causal relationships at the same level. Regardless of whether we are scientists or humanists, we are generally not satisfied with explanations unless they answer the why question by means of reduction, by linking the explanandum to an explanans.8 As Steven Pinker has put it, the difference between reductive and non-reductive explanation is the difference between stamp collecting and detective work, between slinging around jargon and offering insight, between saying something just is and explaining why it had to be that way as opposed to some other way it could have been (Pinker 2002: 72). This is why the manner in which even humanists go about their work is by its very nature reductionistic. Reduction is at the heart of scholarly activity, and when someone fails to reduce we rightly dismiss their work as trivial, superficial, or uninformative. Thus, if there are aspects of human life that are not amenable to reduction, as the skeptics of consilience contend, they can no more be analyzed within the conventional humanistic framework than they can within the consilience framework. Another reason the skeptics concerns about consiliences commitment to reductionism are misplaced is that there is considerable evidence that avoiding reduction often results in spurious conclusions being reached. When the deeper principles behind phenomena are poorly understoodthat is, when lower levels of causation underlying

See Slingerland 2008 for a defense of reductionism in the study of religion, with a series of opposing responses and replies by Cho and Squier 2008.

phenomena we are interested in explaining are not accessible to our pryingwe are often forced to invent vague, place-holder entities to stand in for the missing information. Ideally, we are aware of what we are doing. For instance, Mendel could reason about the inheritance of traits without knowing how information about them was physically instantiated or transmitted, and Darwin could similarly map out the implications of natural selection without any clear conception of the substrate of inheritance. In such cases there is an implicit faith that the lower-level entities and processes will eventually be specified; if not, the theory may have to be abandoned. A discipline can find itself in a dead-end, however, when it has postulated vague, placeholder entities without realizing that this is what it is doingwhen it takes these unspecified and unknowable entities or faculties to have genuine explanatory force because they represent ontologically independent realities. This brings us to the second aspect of humanistic concern about reductionism: the notion that consilience involves reducing all aspects of human life to some lower level common denominator phenomena such as genes or biological instincts. This notion is incorrect for several reasons. To begin with, there is no single level of explanation that is exclusively privileged within the framework of consilience. Rather than deciding a priori which level of reduction is suitable for human questions in general, consilience argues that the appropriate level of reduction needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in light of the goals and objects of a particular line of inquiry. Moreover, there is no reason to believe this sort of methodological diversity will disappear, because the very nature of consilience requires what the philosopher Robert McCauley has referred to as explanatory pluralism within its ontological seamlessness (McCauley 2008). It should be clear from the history of the sciences not only that reduction is a very effective research strategy, but also that exploring reductive possibilities does not lead to the collapsing of disciplinary boundaries. Biology remains distinct from chemistry, and chemistry from physics, despite the fact that scientists have employed reduction as a research strategy for more than 300 years. As McCauley observes, Reduction has probably been the single most effective research strategy in the history of modern science, engendering more precise accounts of the mechanisms (and their operations) underlying everything from magnetic forces to organisms inheritance of traits to the visual perception of moving objects

Exploring reductive possibilities opens new avenues for sharing methodological, theoretical, and evidential resources. Successful reductions reliably generate productive programs of research at the analytical levels from which the candidate theories hail, squaring the lower level, mechanical details with the upper level phenomenal patterns and refining our understanding of both in the bargain. (McCauley 2007: 106) It therefore should be recognized that, within the framework of consilience, there is scope for explanations at many levels, including the levels at which humanists typically formulate their explanations. All that consilience demands is that explanations for higher level phenomenasuch as ethics, morality and religionshould take account of any limits that are set by well-established hypotheses concerning lower level phenomena. Or, to put it another way, all that consilience demands is that humanists be aware whether or not their explanations are compatible with the findings of neuroscience, psychology, evolutionary biology, and other relevant sciences, and be motivated to explore and try to resolve any discrepancies. It is important to recognize that this exploration can move in either direction of the vertically integrated (Tooby and Cosmides 1992) chain of explanation. It is not the case that the sciences simply set limits upon the humanities, but also possible that work in the humanities may require reformulations of scientific hypotheses. For instance, the late 19th century saw what appeared to be an intractable debate between Darwin and future Lord Kelvin concerning the age of the earth. Darwins theory of evolution required that the earth be extremely old for there to have been time for evolution to have done its workroughly ten times older than Kelvin argued was the maximum possible age considering known energy sources and the laws of thermodynamics. Faced with such contradictory evidence, the followers of Darwin and Kelvin did not simply shrug their shoulders and go their own way, declaring biology and physics to be obviously autonomous and incompatible levels of inquiry. The fact that they disagreed profoundly disturbed them, and they did not rest until this disagreement was resolveduntil consilience between physics and biology was once again restored by the discovery of radioactivity, an energy source of which Kelvin was unaware. The case of the DarwinKelvin debate serves as an important example of causal explanatory force flowing down the chain of vertical integration: discoveries at a higher level of explanation, biology,

helping to motivate the reorganization of a lower level of explanation, physical geology, breaking the latter field out of a conceptual dead-end and sending it off in a new direction. This suggests that, once a two-way communication between humanists and scientists really begins to take hold, contradictions in predictions made by, say, literary scholars and cognitive neuroscientists may very well force us to revise our cognitive neuroscience rather than the other way around. However, none of this sort of mutual fertilization can even get off the ground until both humanists and scientists begin to feel the same sense of urgency to achieve consilience that motivated the followers of Darwin and Kelvin. One of the prominent early skeptics of consilience, the late Richard Rorty, responded to E.O. Wilsons call by observing: The various things people build and repair with tools are, to be sure, parts of a seamless causal web. But that seems no reason to impugn the plumber-carpenter or the carpenter-electrician distinction. The various vocabularies I use to describe and explain what is going on are all applied to the same seamless web, but why should I strive to bring them all together? (Rorty 1998: xx) This is to misunderstand the consilience project. Consilience does not demand that we all become plumbersthat literary scholars all drop their books and become quantum physicists. Rather, it asks first that, like plumbers and carpenters, disciplines studying different aspects of reality come together and collaborate when they need each others help. More importantly, it asks thatagain, like plumbers and carpentersthis identification of shared problems and impetus for collaborative work stem from an overall shared conception of the nature of reality and the goals of human knowledge: the only reason that tradespeople can collaborate to build a house is that they share a general sense of both how reality works and what a house is for, and this shared sense constrains in important ways the manner in which they go about their jobs. The call for consilience does not require that humanists or scientists give up or exchange their particular jobs. It merely argues that all academics can do their jobs better, and achieve more satisfactory results, when their efforts are coordinated in a vertically-integrated manner. Elements of a second wave of consilience Having outlined two sets of tensions that seem to arise when humanists confront the concept of consilience, I would now like to sketch the outlines of a modified consilience

project thatresponding to these perceived tensionsdiffers in some significant ways from the project outlined by Tooby and Cosmides 1992 and E.O. Wilson 1998. Borrowing terminology from the feminist movement, I have coined the term second wave to characterize this modified consilience, in that it grows out of and includes the earlier wave but pushes it in several new directions. It is, I believe, undeniable that the manner in which consilience has been characterized and presented to humanists has been off-putting, and hitherto relatively unsuccessful. This seems to involve both substantive and stylistic factors. More substantively, it is clear that issues such as the relationship between evolved human cognitive architecture and culture, or the status of science in the chain of explanation, need to be treated in a more sophisticated fashion. More stylistically, the rhetoric of proponents of consilience (most of them coming from the science side of the sciences/humanities divide) often have a tendency to sound dismissive of the value of traditional humanistic workneedlessly dismissive, since when pressed no advocate of consilience would deny the value of such work. This is why I think that it might be helpful to draw a line between the sort of consilience initially proposed by, for instance, E.O. Wilson, and the work being pursued by those us in the next generation, many of us coming to consilience from a background in more traditional humanities disciplines, and therefore perhaps more sensitized to the aspects of consilience that rub humanists the wrong way. It is probably impossible to speak of being part of a second wave of anything without coming off as both smug and ungrateful. I ended up lighting upon this metaphor in conscious emulation of second-wave feminism, which intended its selfcharacterization to be an inclusive one, incorporating and acknowledging the achievements of the retroactively designated first wave while also pushing it in new directions. Perhaps the computer metaphor of a version 1.1 of a program would be a better one,9 capturing the sense that more recent forms of consilience can be recognized as fundamentally the same product as earlier versions, but modified in various ways in response to bug reports and usability complaints from initial adopters. The manner in

Especially since is not at all clear that third wave feminism partakes of this same inclusive and progressive character.

which this modified, second-wave consilience10 differs from its initial instantiationin both substantive and stylistic wayscan perhaps be characterized as a desire to transcend three barriers: eliminative reductionism, the nature vs. nurture debate, and entrenched disciplinary chauvinism. Beyond Eliminative Reductionism: Respecting Emergent Levels of Truth Having hopefully clarified that reductionism is, when properly done, the central method of intellectual advancement in any field, more has to be said about good and bad forms of reductionismbecause, of course, it is really greedy or eliminative reductionism that most humanists have in mind when they bandy about this charge. If those of us who support consilient approaches to the humanities wish to win broader acceptance among our colleagues, it is incumbent upon us to make it clear that consilience does not entail as many humanists fear it doescollapsing humanities departments into biology departments or denying the significance of human-level truths. Rather, it merely asks that horizontally-focused, humanistic work not be treated as disconnected from the world of physical causation. Human level meaning emerges organically out of the workings of the physical world, and we are being reductive in a good and revealing way when we seek to understand how these lower-level processes allow the higher-level processes to take place, thereby freeing ourselves from impressive-sounding but explanatorily empty entities and faculties.11 The commonly-cited belief that the humanities deal with sympathetic understanding or thick description12 has traditionally had the effect of systematically denying any possible substantive role to the sorts of thin bodily or physical processes studied by the natural sciences, thereby protecting the work of humanists from the prying eye of science by wrapping it in the mysterious cloud of Verstehen. Humanists have long recognized the usefulness of reducing human

For what I see as some representative examples of this sort of second-wave consilience, the reader is referred to Henrich et al. 2003, the three-volume series on The Innate Mind edited by Carruthers, Laurence and Stich (Carruthers, Laurence, and Stich 2005, Carruthers, Laurence, and Stich 2007, 2008), Schaller and Crandall 2004, Gottschall and Wilson 2005, Slingerland 2008, Heywood, Garcia, and Wilson 2009, Boyd, Carroll, and Gottschall 2010, and Schaller et al. 2010. 11 See, for instance, Tooby and Cosmides suggestion that terms such as learning or rationality as they are currently used in the humanities are as analytically useful as protoplasm or vital force was in premodern biology, and are likely to turn out to be blanket terms for what are really a variety of specific, modular, evolved cognitive processes (1992: 122-123) 12 See the classic expression of this attitude by Clifford Geertz (Geertz 1973), who borrows the distinction between thick and thin description from the philosopher Gilbert Ryle (Ryle 1971).

phenomena to more causally basic levels of analysiswhether sociological, economic, psychological or phoneticjudging the usefulness of such reduction in terms of its productiveness and revelatory power. Consilience does not ask us to change this, but merely to refrain from drawing an ontological line below which we will not allow such reduction to go. I should also be emphasized that, even if every researcher in the humanities immediately embraced consilience with the natural sciences, the vast majority of humanistic work would still consist of what might be called horizontal analysis: analyzing phenomena by tracing out connections between entities native to emergent levels of explanation. This is of course the case in any field of analysis, scientific or otherwise: organic chemists spend most of their time exploring connections that make sense only at the level of organic chemicals, and even the most reductive evolutionary approach to poetry will necessarily focus primarily on problematic and modes of analysis native to the phenomenon of poetry. When it comes to humanistic fields, the importance of this sort of horizontal analysis is also heightened when we recognize that even the most trivial of human-level actions and thoughts are not naked facts to be measured by objective instruments, but are rather embedded in a set of long, complex stories that require the higher-level expertise of anthropologists, novelists, and historians in order to fully unpack. Because humanistic fields tend to concern themselves overwhelmingly with emergent structures and idiosyncratic cultural histories, it is not at all clear that adopting a consilient perspective would have such a global and dramatic effect on the day-to-day work of most humanities scholars. This is particularly the case when one recognizes that many humanists in fact implicitly share many of the assumptions of the consilient approachsuch as important commonalities in human nature, universality in certain types of cultural forms, etceven if they deny these commonalities in their rhetorical and theoretical posturing.13 Here the line between substantive and stylistic changes begins to blur, because it is not necessarily the case that advocates of first wave consilience would disagree with any of this. It is the case, however, that respect for emergent-level realities does not come across clearly in their writing. An important feature of the sort of consilience I would like

An observation made by Joseph Carroll (Carroll 2008).

to advance is the recognition that, while consilience can provide a crucially important new explanatory framework within which, say, literary studies could operate, it does not necessarily entail radical alterations in the everyday methodology, vocabulary or focus of interest of the average humanist. Literary scholars, for instance, do not need to stop talking about history and genre, or confine themselves only to terms and concepts drawn from evolutionary psychology. A final, and more substantive point, concerns what we might call the phenomenological status of human-level truths in a consilient framework. Although no evolutionary psychologist or cognitive scientist would purport to be an eliminative reductionist, and all give at least lip-service to the idea that higher levels of explanation can feature emergent qualities not present at the lower levels, there is a common tendency to nonetheless privilege the material level of explanation: we are really just mindless robots or physical systems, no matter how things might appear to us phenomenologically. As I argued in my defense of physicalism above, there are some very good reasons for this privileging of lower levels of explanation. It is equally the case, however, that as we move up the explanatory chain we witness the emergence of one level of explanation in particularthat of human-level reality, as seen through the filter of Theory of Mind that must be recognized as possessing such a special, ineradicable hold on the human mind that no third-person description can ever completely dislodge it. In other words, we apparently cannot help but at some level seeing a Geist in the machine, which means there will always be something importantly different about the Geisteswissenschaften for creatures like us. This is a substantive point because some advocates of consilience argue that, since intentionality and consciousness are helpful for certain heuristic purposes, but possess no underlying reality, the rigorous study of human affairs will eventually be able to dispense with them entirely.14 A common analogy drawn by those who feel dualism will soon disappear is the shift in human sensibilities that occurred with the Copernican revolution. Copernicanism presented a view of the solar system that contradicted not only Scriptural authority but the evidence of our senses: the Bible states quite clearly that the sun moves


See, for instance, Owen Flanagans comment that since concepts such as the soul or free will do not refer to anything real, we are best off without them (Flanagan 2002: xiii).

around the earth, and this also happens to accord with our everyday sensory experience. Yet an accumulation of empirical evidence eventually resulted in Copernicanism winning the daytrumping both religion and common senseand nowadays every educated person takes the heliocentric solar system for granted. Daniel Dennett (Dennett 1995), for instance, argues that the physicalism versus dualism controversy is analogous to the early days of Copernicanism: we are resistant to physicalism because it goes against our religious beliefs and our common sense, but the weight of the empirical evidence is on its side. Eventuallyafter all of the controversy has played itself outwe will learn to accept the materialist account of the self with as much equanimity as the fact that the earth goes around the sun. A basic problem with Dennetts position, however, is that there is a disanalogy between the Copernican revolution and the revolution represented by physicalist models of the mind. The Ptolemaic model of the solar system falls quite naturally out of the functioning of our built-in perceptual systems, but it is not itself part of that system: we do not appear to possess an innate Ptolemaic solar system module. Switching to Copernicanism requires us to suspend our common sense perceptions, but it does not involve a direct violation of any fundamental, innate human ideas. Because of the innateness and automaticity of human folk dualism, however, physicalism as applied to human minds does require such a violation, and this has a very important bearing on how realistic it is to think that we can dispense with mentalistic talk once and for all. The idea of human beings as ultimately mindless robots, blindly designed by a consortium of genes to propagate themselves (Dawkins 1976/2006), has so much difficulty gaining a foothold in human brains because it dramatically contradicts other firmly entrenched ideas such as the belief in soul, freedom, choice, responsibilityin short, all of the qualities that seem to us to distinguish human beings from mere things. The dualism advocated by classic defenders of the autonomy of morality such as Immanuel Kant is not a historical or philosophical accident, but rather a development of an intuition that comes naturally to us, as bearers of Theory of Mind: agents are different from things. Although we are obviously capable of entertaining non-dualist ideas at some abstract level, we seem to have evolved in such as way as to possess automatic cognitive mechanism that are ultimately invulnerable to the idea of thorough-going materialism. Thus we may

always see meaning in our actionspopulating our world with angry seas, welcoming harbors, and other human beings as unique agents worthy of respect and dignity, and distinct from objects in some way that is hard to explain in the absence of soul-talk, but nonetheless very real for us. Qua physicalists, we can acknowledge that this feeling is, in some sense, an illusion. For better or worse, though, we are apparently designed to be irresistibly vulnerable to this illusion, at least on some level. In this respect, appearance is reality for us.15 Proponents of second wave consilience therefore have to live with a kind of dual consciousness, cultivating the ability to view human beings simultaneously under two descriptions: as physical systems and as persons. On the one hand, we are convinced that Darwinism is the best account we have for explaining the world around us, and therefore that human beings are merely physical systems. On the other hand, we cannot help but feel the strong pull of human-level truth. Moreover, those of us who are humanists also earn our keep by studying this emergent level of reality: unlike scientists, we do not necessarily have to withdraw our projections in order to perform our day jobs, which is a nice perk. Conceptualizing the subject of humanist inquiry not as the ineffable workings of some Cartesian Geist in the machine, but rather as the wonderfully complex set of emergent realities that constitute the lived human worldin all its cultural and historical diversityallows us to respect and accommodate fears concerning the dangers of eliminative reductionism without having to take refuge in an empirically-implausible form of mind-body dualism. A consilience grounded in McCauleys explanatory pluralism but ontological seamlessness provides space for both the appreciation and explanation of the rich world of emergent human meaning. Beyond the Nature-Nurture Debate: Recognizing the Importance of Gene-Culture Coevolution


This is where, in fact, we see the limits of a thoroughly scientific approach to human culture, and need to finesse a bit our understanding of what counts as a fact for beings like us. In this respect, humanists and scientists concerned with the issue of levels of explanation and emergent properties have much to learn from the work of Charles Taylor (see especially Taylor 1989). Although Taylor is ultimately opposed to consilience or other forms of naturalism, I believe that his insights on this subject can be drawn upon to formulate a more sophisticated model of vertical integration.

Some of the more recent popular press accounts of the death of evolutionary psychology lead one to believe that its potential limitations entirely nullify the value of work done in this field, or even invalidate the consilience approach in general.16 This could not be further from the truth, and these critiques are unhelpful to the extent that they have been driven by a fundamental resistance to viewing humans as the potential subject of scientific inquiry. One helpful point that these critiques have made, however, is that evolutionary psychology has a tendency to focus more or less exclusively on the Pleistocene brain and the adaptive environment of our small-band living, hunter-gatherer ancestors. No one would deny that the human brain has been shaped by the evolutionary history of our species, nor that the Pleistocene hunter-gatherer lifestyle represents an important and relatively long-lasting period of human cognitive evolution. However, a lot has happened to human beings since the Pleistocene. How to properly deal with human culture and its relationship to innate cognition within an evolutionary framework has been a topic of much concern. In fact, it is as much an issue of contention among proponents of consilience as it is between proponents and skeptics of the approach. Early advocates of consilience tended to see human cognition and behavior as more or less exclusively dependent upon our genome and some sort of pre-given physical environment. We can see this in E.O. Wilsons perhaps now infamous metaphor of the human brain as an exposed negative waiting to be dipped in developer fluid (Wilson 1975/2000: 156), which presents culture as a more-or-less direct expression of innate human psychological mechanisms, a mechanically-expressed phenotype of a fixed human genotype on the order of a termite mound or beehive. Second-wave consilience can be seen as a modification of this position in that it recognizes that culture and genes exist in a coevolutionary relationship, and that human culture can play a role in transforming human cognition on both individual and evolutionary time scales. Culture on this model is best seen as semi-autonomous force, with its own process of evolution and selection pressuressemi-autonomous because it is not some disembodied, Durkheimian superstructure, but is necessarily carried by individual human brains and the physical, culturally-modified environment. This second wave approach also adopts a


See in particular Begley 2009 and Brooks 2009 on the death of evolutionary psychology; for a succinct response to the more extreme critics of evolutionary psychology, see Kenrick 2006

rather broader view of what constitutes the relevant adaptive environment, which for humans has to the social-cultural world, and the socially and culturally transformed bodymind.17 If we wish to frame this as a substantive critique of some advocates of first wave consilience, we might say that the desire to push back against the extreme social constructivism that currently dominates the humanities was taken too far. One unfortunate effect of some recent attempts to bring a robust conception of human nature back to the fore in our study of human culture is the creationperhaps often unintendedof a false dichotomy between nature and nurture: that the only alternatives are embracing full-blown social constructivism or believing in a single, universal human nature that merely gets translated into various cultures. In fact, a consilient approach to human cultureone fundamentally informed by evolutionary theory and the latest discoveries in cognitive sciencecan take us beyond such dichotomies. The work of scholars such as Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd (e.g. Richerson and Boyd 2006), as well as their students (e.g., Henrich and McElreath 2006), has shown how cultural forms themselves are subject to a kind of evolution, constrained by the structures of human cognition but also exerting their own independent force. In fact, cultural evolution seems to have driven certain aspects of human genetic evolution, favoring our big brains, linguistic skills, and ultra-sociality, the three hallmarks of our species (Henrich et al. 2003). Cultural group selection theory gives us a model for how this process of coevolution may have worked historically among human populations, and how its effects can still be observed today. In addition, tools drawn from cognitive linguistics, such as conceptual metaphor and blending theory,18 give us very specific models for understanding how universal, innate human cognitive patterns can get projected into new domains or combined to generate entirely novel, emergent structures. Human cognitive fluidity,19 ratcheted up over time by

Many representatives of this second wave also openly embrace a concept that is still too often viewed as a terrible heresy by evolutionary psychologists: multilevel or group selection, which argues that groups of organisms can become vehicles for selection pressure. See especially Wilson 1975; Wilson 2006 on the revival of group selection in both biological and cultural studies. 18 On conceptual metaphor theory, see Lakoff and Johnson 1999; on blending theory, see Fauconnier and Turner 2002, or the helpful introduction to blending found in Dancygier 2006. 19 The term cognitive fluidity was coined by the archeologist Steven Mithen (Mithen 1996); for an attempt to sketch out how conceptual blending theory could serve as a powerful tool in both explaining and

entrenchment in cultural forms such as language or architecture, can shape human emotions, desires and perception in quite novel and idiosyncratic waysfrom the subtle Japanese aesthetic sentiment of mono no aware (lit. the sorrow of things) to the sort of cultivated needs explored in depth by theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu. More of an acknowledgement of how culture can play an active role in reshaping human nature would go a long way toward answering the sort of skepticism voice by many humanities scholar who remain dubious about the value of the consilience project, and for whom the dazzling variety of various human cultures and the nuances of specific cultural products are the most salient features of human beings. Beyond Disciplinary Chauvinism: Recognizing that Consilience is a Two-Way Street Consilience demands that humanists start paying more attention to discoveries about human cognition being provided by cognitive scientists, psychologists and specialists in non-human animal behavior, which have a constraining function to play in the formulation of broad humanistic theoriescalling into question, for instance, such deeply entrenched dogmas as the blank slate theory of human nature, strong versions of social constructivism and linguistic determinism, and the ideal of disembodied reason (Pinker 2002, Slingerland 2008). However, by the same token, as scientists explore areas traditionally studied by the humanitiesthe nature of culture, religion, ethics, epistemology, literature, consciousness, emotions, or aestheticsthey need to draw on humanistic expertise if they are to effectively decide what sorts of questions to ask, how to frame these questions, what sorts of stories to tell in interpreting their data, and how to grapple with the ethical and social repercussions of scientific discoveries about complex human phenomena. This two-way dynamic has, unfortunately, been too often ignored by earlier proponents of consilience. To take one example, one of the more puzzling features of the modern academy is that philosophy of science is pursued almost exclusively in humanities disciplines, with most working scientists pursuing their research in blithe unawareness of the developments in philosophy of science in the past several decades that has fundamentally

modeling cognitive fluidity and conceptual innovation, see Slingerland 2008: Ch. 4.

problematized old-fashioned, positivistic models of scientific inquiry.20 For instance, since at least the early 1970s it has become widely recognized that scientific theory and observation are inextricably intertwined, and that the positivistic ideal of a perfectly corroborated theory is a chimera. Too many working scientists today nonetheless continue to evince an overoptimistic faith in the scientific method as an infallible and direct route to truth, an attitude that can blind them to problematical theoretical assumptions or culturally specific elements that may be distorting their results. The practical significance of this work can, of course, be exaggerated. When presented with scientific evidence, a common kneejerk reaction among humanists is to declare that such evidence can simply be dismissed, because after Kuhn we all know that science is merely one discourse among manysuch statements often uttered with the greatest confidence by those who have never read a word of Kuhn.21 I think it selfevidence that the sort of extreme epistemological skepticism that currently permeates many areas of the humanities, and that constitutes one of the primary intellectual barriers to consilience, has outlived its usefulness. A primary benefit of getting beyond mindbody dualism is the ability to move past epistemological problems created by such dualism: both objectivist positivism and its evil skeptical twin are artifacts of an empirically implausible, disembodied, representational model of knowledge (Laudan 1996, Putnam 1999). The commonalities of human embodiment in the world can result in a stable body of shared knowledge, verified (at least provisionally) by evidence based upon common perceptual access. Abandoning strong mind-body dualismbringing the human mind back into contact with a rich and meaningful world of thingswould therefore reground the humanities on the foundation of an embodied mind that is always already in touch with the world, as well as a pragmatic model of truth or verification that takes the body and the physical world seriously. At the same time, such an embodied, pragmatic model of truth would also avoid the pitfalls of old-fashioned positivist objectivism, which most theorists agree has outlived its usefulness as an epistemological framework (Smith 2006).

20 21

See, for instance, the classic work of Kuhn 1962/1970 and Feyerabend 1993. Kuhn himself was of course rather appalled by the manner in which his work became yoked to a rabid form of epistemological skepticism; see Kuhn 1970.

Through contact and collaboration with colleagues in the humanities, second-wave consiliators coming from a science background can begin to become more aware of potential problems with their basic explanatory categories, and more attuned to the importance of cultural variation. Two specific examples, that of the psychology of religion and cross-cultural psychology, can be cited as particularly revealing in this regard. Psychologists interested in the scientific study of religion have tended work with a rather unexamined conception of the category of religionthe defining of which has been a central, contentious and extremely fraught issue in the academic study of religion for over a hundred years. This has a potentially significant impact of their work. For example, psychologists wishing to study the effect of religious primes on prosocial behavior have to select particular words to serve as their religious primes, which can fundamentally skew results when this selection is guided by a very historically unusual and culturally particular form of religiosityparticularly if a proportion of ones subject pool operates according to a very different model of religiosity. Similarly, an entire subfield of cross-cultural psychology is based upon a model of East Asian thought as holistic, as opposed to the analytic West (Nisbett 2003, Nisbett et al. 2001). While it cannot be denied that the empirical data being gathered by these psychologists is extremely interesting, when it comes to interpreting this datatelling a coherent historical narrative that will explain itthey often fall back on unhelpful and essentialistic stereotypes. Eastern holism, for instance, is traced back to such foundational texts of Chinese thought as the Classic of Changes (Yi Jing) or the Dao De Jing, but without any clear sense of when or how these texts were composed, how representative they are of Eastern thought, or how they have historically been used and interpreted in East Asia. Researchers in the various branches of the cognitive sciences thus have much to learn from humanists, and the cognitive sciences absolutely require the expertise of anthropologists, literary scholars, and historians if they are to avoid reinventing the wheel or committing egregious interpretative errors. The topic of religion provides another angle on this point. One of the pioneers in evolutionary approaches to the study of religion, David Sloan Wilson, has called for scientists interested in studying the evolutionary origins of religion to tap into the rich knowledge base of historians and other

more traditional scholars of religion, and for such scholars to seek out the kind of unifying theoretical framework that scientists can provide. One analogy that he has employed to convey this point is the manner in which the rich and detailed, though rather unorganized, data compiled by pre-Darwinian naturalists served as an invaluable resource for post-Darwinian scientists armed with the theory of evolution (Wilson 2007: xx). There is certainly something to this analogy: one could argue that too much of current work in the humanities resembles butterfly collecting, pursued without any sort of guiding theoretical framework to help researchers formulate productive research questions and to make sense of their data. However, there is an important disanalogy with Darwin and the pre-Darwinian naturalists: when it comes to a phenomena such as religion, the formulation of the very category itself requires humanistic expertise, and research into the possible evolutionary origins of religion risks going radically awry if not guided by such knowledge. This means that, when it comes to the scientific study of human-level phenomena, scholars with humanities expertise need to be on the ground floor of basic theorizing and experimental design, and not seen merely as passive providers of cultural and historical data. Bordering as it does on areas typically studied in core humanities fields, the discipline of psychology provides many examples of profound and puzzling failures of the part of scientists to engage with basic work in the humanities. For example, the vast majority of psychological studies rely upon a subject pool composed exclusively of university undergraduates, and often more specifically undergraduate Psychology majors. As an important forthcoming piece by Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan 2010 observes, broad claims about human psychology and behavior in the worlds top journals [are generally] based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) societies: Our review of the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences suggests both that there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations and that WEIRD subjects are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the speciesfrequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, self-concepts and related motivations, and the heritability of IQ. The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about

humansOverall, these empirical patterns suggests that we need to be less cavalier in addressing questions of human nature on the basis of data drawn from this particularly thin, and rather unusual, slice of humanity. (xx) It seems likely that this piece will create quite a stir within psychology, and the authors are to be credited for their recognition of this basic problem, their thoroughness in documenting it in a manner likely to be convincing to their colleagues, and their courage in bringing it forward as a topic of debate. However, the response of most humanists when told that North American university psychology undergraduates might not be representative of universal human nature can be imagined by anyone with even modicum of humanistic training. The diversity of human cognition across cultures and through historical time, while only recently a topic of study in psychology, is one of the most basic of truisms in the humanities, and it is a serious possibility that psychologists have wasted a fair amount of time pursuing research agendas that will prove upon reflection to be of only quite parochial cognitive interest. There are a host of related problems that might be raised in this regard. For instance, there is an often unspoken assumption in what little cross cultural work that is done in psychology that terms drawn from modern American English can be unproblematically translated into exact equivalents in any language of the worldan assumption viewed as so unproblematic that the actual translations into foreign languages of study questionnaires and similar materials are hardly ever included in the Methods appendices of psychology journal articles. This, of course, gives fits to any of us who study languages for a living. Such examples could be multiplied endlessly, but the take-home message is that there is a need for humanistic expertise in those disciplines that most directly border on the demilitarized zone between the humanities and sciences, and that it is only this sort of integration can succeed in breaking certain areas of these borderland disciplines out of conceptual dead-ends or unfortunate detours. The recognition that consilience is a twoway street is therefore not some polite concession to assuage the egos of humanistic scholars, but a call for humanists to lend their expertise to researchers who have worked their way up into levels of explanation studies by humanists and often find themselves groping around blindly, with no guidebook and little sense of the overall terrain.

Conclusion: Moving from Biversities to Universities It should be clear at this point that second wave consilience calls upon researchers on both sides of the sciences/humanities divide to become radically more interdisciplinary. One of the primary questions that remains is how, practically, to help academics to do thishow to begin transforming Western institutions of higher learning from biversities into true universities, where scholars working at different levels of explanation feel comfortable exchanging information and share certain very general theoretical and methodological assumptions. Despite their variety and disunity (Dupr 1993), the various disciplines of the natural sciences have managed to arrange themselves in a rough explanatory hierarchy, with information and insights flowing both up and down the chain of explanation. The levels of explanation in the natural/social sciences that most directly border on the humanitiessuch as social psychology, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and animal behaviourhave finally advanced to a point that they both need to hear from the humanistic disciplines and have many interesting things to say in return. How do we facilitate this process? While a dispiriting panoply of institutional and pragmatic difficulties are no doubt involved, it is arguably the case that the primary barrier to such dialogue between the humanities and the sciences is a remaining wall of strong mutual distrust and incomprehension. Too many scientists continue to see the humanities as disorganized, soft disciplines with little to offer them; too many humanists view the sciences as (at best) irrelevant to their own work, or (at worst) deeply flawed, culturally parochial discourses or existential threats to human values and dignity. The ghosts of C.P. Snows caricatured pure scientists and literary intellectuals continue to stalk the academy, with hardheaded acolytes of scientific methodology who disdain poetry and would banish all meaning from the academy once and for all contrasted with sensitive students of literature, poetry and art, whose adventurous imaginations are all that lie between mankind and the gray future represented by the triumph of mechanistic science. We need to resist the dystopic vision that consilience will mean the end of the humanities forever, and transform the university into a monolithic wasteland where poetry is reduced to math, fMRI scanners replace classrooms and books, and human spirit and creativity is suffocated by a dull grey blanket of mechanistic reasoning.

As I have argued above, the sort of non-reductive vertical integration proposed by second wave consilience not only respects the relative autonomy and heuristic indispensability of human-level concepts and truths, but demands that the flow of explanation and interaction go both ways in the chain. The sciences do not merely provide some basic ontological constraints on humanistic inquiryalthough they should do thatbut also need to be guided by humanistic expertise, as well as being open, when necessary, to restructuring in light of humanistic work. A proper respect for the importance of emergent level truths can lead to a kind of disciplinary multivocality, while a commitment to a unified ontology can prevent such multivocality from degenerating into babble. Second wave consilience contains space for all of the disciplines that explore the complexities of human reality, acknowledging that each possesses its own conceptual tools and methods. When inter-level communication is deemed potentially appropriate and productive, it calls for non-eliminative and revealing forms of reductionreduction that explains but does not erase. Such consilience is informed by a sophisticated model of scientific inquiry that recognizes the limitations of science without exaggerating them, and understands that the scientific study of human-level truths requires humanistic expertise on the ground floor, not merely as a source of data. It takes us beyond the nature-nurture debate by emphasizing the continuous coevolution and cocreation of mind and culture, and acknowledges the phenomenological ineradicability of mind-body dualism without reifying it into a barrier to explanations that cross the perceived mind-body divide. I hope that my comments here give some sense of the potential that such a vision of consilience promises for moving both the humanities and the sciences forward, with the desired effect of profoundly transforming both in the process. References Begley, Sharon. 2009. Don't blame the caveman. Newsweek, June 29, 42-47. Boyd, Brian, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall, eds. 2010. Evolution, literature & film: A reader. New York: Columbia University Press. Brooks, David. 2009. Human nature today. New York Times, June 25, A25. Carroll, Joseph. 2008. An evolutionary paradigm for literary study. Style 42 (2-3):103135.

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